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The Australian Privacy Commissioner and the ACMA sign Memorandum of Understanding

The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) and the Australian Privacy Commissioner have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to formalise a streamlined approach to telecommunications, spam and telemarketing matters.

The Australian Privacy Commissioner regulates compliance with the Privacy Act 1998 that applies to federal government agencies and many private sector businesses including telecommunications providers. The ACMA regulates telecommunications, spam and telemarketing, including industry-specific ‘privacy’ related rules.

The MOU framework assists each entity to perform its respective functions cooperatively and efficiently, with the intention of minimising the risk of duplication. It also provides for appropriate information-sharing in investigations, as well as statistical information about telecommunications privacy issues.

‘This MOU further strengthens the relationship between our two agencies. It reinforces our commitment to protect the privacy of Australians in the most efficient and effective manner possible while reducing the regulatory burden on organisations,’ said Australian Privacy Commissioner, Timothy Pilgrim. 

ACMA Chairman, Chris Chapman similarly welcomed the new arrangements. ‘The MOU is designed to enable both entities to discuss matters of shared concern and jointly to decide on which agency is best positioned to act on a matter of mutual interest which will streamline engagement and improving ‘forum certainty’ for organisations’, he said.

For more information or to arrange an interview, please contact:

Australian Privacy Commissioner: Leila Daniels 02 9284 9695 and 0407 663 968 or

ACMA: Blake Murdoch, (02) 9334 7817, 0434 567 391 or


The Australian Privacy Commissioner regulates compliance with the Privacy Act 1988 (Privacy Act).  The Commissioner also has specific functions conferred by other legislation, including the Telecommunications Act 1997.

Under the Privacy Act, a person can lodge a complaint to the Australian Privacy Commissioner about the handling of their personal information by government agencies and private sector organisations covered by the Privacy Act.

The Australian Privacy Commissioner may also open a ‘Commissioner initiated investigation’ into an act or practice which may breach the Privacy Act which may also fall under the ACMA’s jurisdiction.

The Australian Privacy Commissioner has a range of privacy regulatory powers, including the power to accept an enforceable undertaking, make a determination, seek an injunction or apply to the court for a civil penalty order.

The ACMA’s role includes the registration of industry codes which may include privacy related matters as well as:

  • receiving complaints from consumers concerning unwanted spam or telemarketing, who may be affected by potential breaches of the Privacy Act, industry standards or industry codes registered by the ACMA;

  • undertaking investigations of telecommunications matters involving privacy which involve potential breaches of telecommunications industry codes or standards, or relate to matters under the Spam Act 2003 (Spam Act) or the Do Not Call Register Act 2006;

  • investigating potential breaches of the Spam Act in relation to “consent”, where the incidents underlying such breaches may also raise potential breaches of the Privacy Act.

The MOU formalises previous successful informal cooperation between the two agencies in relation to telecommunications matters. Under the new arrangements, both parties will confer on matters where both have an interest and seek to agree on the lead agency to deal with the matter.

Recognising that the Australian Privacy Commissioner has a statutory obligation to investigate complaints made to it, the ACMA will not ordinarily investigate matters being investigated by the Australian Privacy Commissioner.

However, there are some circumstances where the ACMA may investigate a matter under investigation by the Privacy Commissioner. For example, when an ACMA Direction or Enforceable Undertaking has been breached and a separate investigation is required or where the ACMA is investigating a broader course of conduct that has privacy implications.